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12 January 2022
By NICK RIDLEY
Poolaijelo sheep and cattle farmer Ken Frost had many thoughts racing through his mind as he dashed to confront a major fire on his property.
Mr Frost, 74, who had been keeping up to date with details of the fire, which started in South Australia on New Year’s Eve and had grown rapidly as it spread easterly into Victoria, was understandably frantic.
He had received an alert on his phone and after running outside his house, noticed ‘a few puffs of smoke’ and was immediately on his way to catch up with other firefighters at the district fire shed.
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On arrival he joined a Poolaijelo crew of four on a tanker to join the fight. But after unloading two tanks of water on the fire he received word the fire was headed towards his farm and home.
Mr Frost and his wife Mary farm 404.6 hectares across two properties, one which includes a farmhouse and a shed, the other farmland where he runs livestock.
After receiving the phone alert he decided to return to his farm, navigating around a northern flank of the fire.
He said his anxiety levels grew as he approached his property, directly in the firing line of the fire that would continue for more than a week and kill 600 of his 700 sheep and leave little of his property unscathed.
He said as he travelled to his farm, thick smoke had significantly affected visibility, adding to his elevated levels of concern.
“When we got onto the road east to where we live, I was more worried about killing someone on the road because my vision was totally nil,” he said.
“I came to our front gate, I couldn’t see if we had a house there until we got up to the drive.”
Mr Frost said when he arrived at his property, he quickly started spraying down everything he could with water.
“I went to my next-door neighbour’s place to do the same,” he said.
“I decided to go back home, by which time my wife was trying to hose a burning tank stand. It was pretty terrible.”
Mr Frost said it was then he realised his wife was safe at home.
Emergency services confirmed late last week they had the Poolaijelo fire under control.
In the seven days from when the blaze started from an incident involving a car fire in South Australia, it had burnt more 7000 hectares and killed more than 6000 sheep.
Mr Frost’s losses have also been significant.
He said he had some luck with most of his cattle escaping to an unburnt scrub block.
“A neighbour thought he had killed all our cattle because he opened one of our gates,” Mr Frost said.
“They headed into the scrub and we retrieved them after the next few days and we brought them back again. A lot of them were on Mosquito Creek.
“They had food, they had water and they had trees to sleep under, they were fine. I don’t know how the cows here survived.”
Mr Frost said district people had been ‘amazing’ in supporting him and his wife.
“All the rams are dead, and the remaining sheep are stressed. Hopefully, our pregnant cattle haven’t been so stressed they abort,” he said.
Mr Frost said he had been forced to put down three out of four mature bulls, the remaining animal having survived by venturing into a paddock dam.
“They were very badly burnt and very sick and a neighbour suggested that we go inside. I was pretty traumatised by it,” he said.
Mr Frost has lived at Poolaijelo since 1952 when his father took on the farm in a soldier settlement arrangement.
He said he still had memories of previous fires in the area, such as the 1955 fire in Langkoop that he described as ‘similar’ to Black Saturday.
Despite the two fires Mr Frost has lived through, he said he planned to continue farming.
“We will continue to farm for a while. My body is like an old farm ute. It’s got no re-sale value so you might as well drive it until it stops. We feel a bit numb and under a state of shock,” he said.
“But we are trying to look on the positive side. It’s not good saying you have lost 600 sheep – they are gone. We are going to have to look forward and not backwards.
“We still have our Angus breeding herd.”
The entire January 12, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!